Connect with us

Snapshots

Duma Travel: Themba Mthombeni

Seized by a desire to travel a new road, Themba Mthombeni left a well paid corporate job to forge his own path in the travel industry.

Juliet Pitman

Published

on

Themba Mthombeni

When technological advances threaten a sector, some people see only challenges. Others, like Themba Mthombeni, see opportunities. The founder of Duma Travel, Mthombeni got into the travel agency business when everyone else was getting out. In 2002, the rise of Internet bookings meant travel agents were becoming redundant as increasing numbers of travellers booked their own airline tickets, transfers and accommodation online.

Seeing a gap

“Travel agents had become nothing more than booking clerks and it was clear they needed to offer additional value to their clients if they wanted to survive. I realised that few travel companies were offering strategic services, and I immediately saw a gap to start an agency that leveraged this opportunity,” he says. That was when he left a comfortable job as HR director of De Beers to start Duma Travel. From his own corporate experience and time spent in business consulting, Mthombeni knew that travel is often the second highest corporate expense item after human resources costs. “Previously travel wasn’t seen as a strategic issue, but as travel costs have soared, so the need has arisen for companies to have travel policies in place and to implement cost reduction strategies. Duma Travel was formed specifically for this purpose – we’re a travel partner to corporate organisations and we provide them with the tools to manage travel needs at a strategic level,” he explains.

Redefining an industry

The company offers a range of services including travel audits, assistance in crafting travel policies, research into best practices and how to change traveller behaviour, and change management strategies to ensure policies are implemented properly and rigorously.
“When a company spends tens to hundreds of millions of rands on travel, they want to know where their money is going, and how to reduce the amount they pay out. We help them do that,” Mthombeni says. In redefining the role of a travel agent, Duma Travel has attracted some big name clients who recognise the value it has to offer. They include Old Mutual, PetroSA, the City of Cape Town, and the departments of Home Affairs and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Getting to growth

But it hasn’t always been easy. Looking back on the road he has walked to get Duma Travel to where it is today, Mthombeni says, “Initially, it was a big adjustment to move from a job that had status and comfort, to being a very lonely single operator in a small office.”
He’d invested his own savings in the company, and while he had capital to live off in the early stages, he deliberately downgraded his lifestyle. “I sold my BMW and bought myself an Uno – it’s a small thing but it helped from a psychological point of view. It made me hungry to make a success of things,” he says. “It also made me appreciate small triumphs. I still remember getting excited about my first booking which was for two local airline tickets.” Today the company employs 70 people and has six offices around the country.

Looking ahead

It’s success of which Mthombeni is justifiably proud but it hasn’t dulled his appetite or ambition. “My five-year vision is to be in the top five travel management companies in the country, which implies sales of around R1,5 billion,” he says. He plans to get there by acquiring small businesses in the geographical areas where the company wants to grow its footprint, and this year he will be launching travel incentive extensions to the Duma Travel brand. “We also have plans to launch a corporate conference management division – both of these extensions overlap with our existing core business but will allow us to diversify our offering,” he adds. “Ultimately we want to be a one-stop shop for corporate travel. I have every confidence that we will achieve our goals.” Having once found himself off the beaten track, Mthombeni is now well positioned to open new frontiers in his sector.

Duma Travel
Player Themba Mthombeni
Est.: 2002
Contact: +27 11 326 4009,
+27 83 277 3439
www.dumatravel.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

Advertisement
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Snapshots

Alan Knott-Craig On Learning To Overcome Your Fears And Building Successful Businesses

After Alan Knott-Craig ran some of South Africa’s well known companies like Cellfind, iBurst and Mxit, he’s on a mission to broaden South Africa’s wireless internet network with HeroTel.

CEOwise

Published

on

By

ceowise-entrepreneur-magazine-thumbnail-design-alan-knott-craig

We interview entrepreneur Alan Knott-Craig, who after running well known South African companies like Cellfind, iBurst and Mxit founded HeroTel, which is a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) and his strategy is to buy up smaller WISP companies to create a broader network.

Continue Reading

Snapshots

Ian Fuhr Explains Why He Likes To Launch Businesses In Unfamiliar Industries And How He Made Sorbet A Success

Ian Fuhr, a serial entrepreneur is not scared of opening businesses in industries he knows nothing about.

CEOwise

Published

on

By

ceowise-entrepreneur-magazine-thumbnail-designs-ian-fuhr

We interview entrepreneur Ian Fuhr, who founded the Sorbet Group in 2005 which has now grown to over 200 stores in South Africa with stores in the UK. Ian is a serial entrepreneur who has launched many successful companies in industries he knew very little about.

Continue Reading

Snapshots

How Pepe Marais Went From Bankruptcy To Founding Joe Public And Becoming An Entrepreneurial Success

After being bankrupt in 2009 Pepe, along with his partners, turned their business around to being one of the best advertising agencies in South Africa.

CEOwise

Published

on

By

ceowise-entrepreneur-magazine-thumbnail-design-pepe-marais

We interview entrepreneur Pepe Marais, who co-founded Joe Public, one of the biggest independently owned advertising agencies in South Africa. After being bankrupt in 2009 Pepe found his life’s purpose and not only turned his business around, but his entire life. It’s all documented in his booked titled Growing Greatness, which is a must read.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

SPOTLIGHT

Advertisement

Recent Posts

Follow Us

Entrepreneur-Newsletters
*
We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.
Advertisement

Trending